|Amanda Treiber and Steven Melendez (Photo by Yi Chun-Wu)|
We are suckers for beauty whether it be aural or visual. We always go for the "up close and personal" approach, as opposed to sitting in a huge theater far away from the action. Intimacy is what appeals to us. And so it was that we found many delights in last night's performance by the estimable and long-enduring New York Theatre Ballet, founded by Artistic Director Diana Byer. They performed for the second year at New York Live Arts, a marvelous performing space in Chelsea. Seating is comfortable and sightlines are unobstructed. All the music was live!
The first half of the program thrilled us. The curtain raiser Chemical Bond, choreographed by Milissa Payne Bradley of San Francisco, was set to music by Gabriel Fauré (Sérénade op. 98, Après un Rêve) performed beautifully by Michael Scales on piano and Amy Kang on cello. Ballerinas Amanda Treiber and Mayu Oguri were partnered by Joshua Andino-Nieto.
It is amazing how the limited vocabulary of positions and steps of classical ballet can be combined in countless ways. There was nothing radical in Ms. Bradley's choreography but it struck us as beautiful and satisfying. That we didn't want the piece to end testifies to its worth.
Ms. Treiber and Ms. Oguri projected an air of delicate femininity while Mr. Andino-Nieto danced and partnered with sureness and strength. Costume design by Sylvia Taalson Nolan was superb. The women's costumes were pale and short, the better to allow full appreciation of their extensions. Floaty patches fluttered as they moved and delighted the eye. Pointe work was lovely.
The second work, Such Longing was choreographed by Richard Alston and restaged by Martin Lawrence. One could not choose a better composer for ballet than Frédéric Chopin and Mr. Scales played the Mazurkas, Etudes and lone Nocturne with style and variety. The choreography reflected so much about Chopin's nationalistic pride, touched by modesty and sorrowful moments.
The four dancers--Steven Melendez, Amanda Treiber, Michael Wells, and Elena Zahlmann--danced in various combinations, portraying Chopin's many moods just as Mr. Scales colored his piano playing. The lifts were particularly lovely. The costumes were in somber hue and the women's dresses longer than we would have wished. We like legs!
Jerome Robbins' Antique Epigraphs, as staged by Kyra Nichols, was set to two lovely Debussy pieces: Mira Magrill's flute gave voice to Syrinx at the beginning and the end while Michael Scales and Zheng Ma performed the four-handed Six Epigraphes Antiques. Now how lovely was that!
The piece has achieved legendary status but appeared rather dated with Florence Klotz' floor-length costumes a bit shopworn and ill-fitting but in lovely muted hues. We could not keep from thinking about "Ode to a Grecian Urn", and there was one group scene that made us think of Ravels "Song of the Mastic Gatherers" from his Five Popular Greek Melodies.
The second half of the program left us in the dust. We have been avoiding modern dance for some time now because of the herky-jerky movements that we find just plain ugly. We don't like to see dancers in street clothes rolling around on the floor or running around the stage making meaningless gestures. We are reminded of exercise classes at health clubs.
To see classically trained dancers in such a work displeases us. We cannot say that Song Before Spring is bad, only that it is not at all our taste. Zhong-Jing Fang and Steven Melendez choreographed the work which was set to music by Philip Glass and performed by NY STEEL-- a dozen enthusiastic percussionists playing steel drums, led by Josh Quillen.
We did not grasp what the choreography was aiming for nor did we understand the interactions between the cast members. Occasionally there was a tender gesture but for the most part we saw a lot of meaningless gestures.
We prefer to forget all about it and joyfully remember the beauty of the first half of the program. We are just so happy that chamber ballet exists at all!
(c) meche kroop